By Genevieve Rajewski
My story on goat meat (plus an absolutely delicious recipe from Highland Kitchen) are out in The Boston Globe today. This piece actually took quite a bit of work, but I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it. Here are the leftovers.
- Amy Cook, the goat farmer in my story, works as a veterinarian part-time and is experimenting with breeding a new type of meat goat. She said: “I started with Boer goat, which is the classic meat goat in this country. It’s an African breed and a very heavyset, muscular goat. Because they are from Africa, Boer goats are an arid-climate animal and have traits that aren’t that conducive to this region. They require a lot of grain, which isn’t sustainable from a financial or an environmental perspective. I’m looking for more of a range goat to pasture-graze. I’m moving more toward the Kiko goat. It is an Australian breed--basically a feral goat they pulled off the mountainside. The breed doesn’t grow quite as fast or have the same heavyset, muscular body type as a Boer goat. But they are able to maintain themselves on less feed by going out and eating lots of grass and weeds. I’m trying to find the ideal mix of the two, and I think I will end up with a herd that’s 75 percent Kiko and 25 percent Boer.” Although the Copley Square and Brookline farmers’ markets will wrap up for the season soon, rumor has it that Cook's Farm Orchard, which carries the meat at its stand, may participate in one or more of the winter markets.)
- Although his quotes did not make it into the final piece, Tony Maws, chef and owner of Craigie on Main, frequently features goat on his menu and had some smart things to say: “People may only expect to find goat in Caribbean stews and things like that, but in no way is that the only way to cook goat. It’s an incredibly delicate meat, and I love it. The obvious connection people might try to make is to lamb. But it is not lamb. It’s really its own animal—pun intended. Yes, they eat grass and you spot goats and lambs close by each other on a farm, but they were put on the earth for different purposes. The structure of the meat is very different. Lamb also has a lot of natural fat, while goat is much leaner. The flavor of goat meat is awesome, but it can be a little less forgiving to cook. It can come out tough or dry if you don’t know how to cook it well. Goat meat definitely benefits from brines, marinades and curing, as well as longer cooking times at lower temperatures—anything that helps break down the proteins in the meat to make it more tender.”
- I first encountered Well Foods Plus a few years ago when I wrote about the Union Square ethnic market tour for Boston Magazine. I remembered seeing whole goats somewhere and contacted Rachel Strutt from Somerville Arts Council to help jog my memory. This didn’t make it into my piece, but I found it fascinating. She wrote: “Definitely visit Halal Market/Well Foods Plus and speak to Rokeya or her husband, Jahinger. They sell loads of goats! I learned some new info about their goat source recently. It's a farm in Western Mass. All goats are slaughtered according to Halal law: Goats are given last meal and an Iman blesses the goat. At some farms, they only play a tape recording (!) of blessing, but this farm has an actual Iman.”
- I was originally inspired to write the piece by our former meat CSA farm, Chestnut Farms. On open barn day, Nate and I were surprised to see goats frolicking on the rocky part of one field. Kim, the farm’s owner, told us how most male kids basically end up as garbage after being born to dairy goats and that she was taking some in to give them a good life until they reached adulthood—when goat meat would be periodically available for purchase by CSA members. I tried many times to reach Kim for my story, but was unsuccessful (the farm’s general inaccessibility being a big part of why we eventually left that CSA for Stillman’s, for all that we thought the product was very good and really liked the busy owners and appreciated how they raise their animals). She is featured in a great video guide by The Atlantic Monthly, which was passed on to me by Nadine Nelson after I had filed my piece.
- There are some pretty serious nutritional claims made about goat meat and most of them are true. However, I didn’t want to just re-quote a lot of the unsubstantiated information I found floating around there, so I turned to my mother-in-law—a nutritionist—for help. She clued me in to the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory’s National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: a great place for running all manners of food comparisons. I took my best shot at comparing cooked goat meat versus cooked chicken breast tenders, fresh cooked pork (composite of trimmed retail cuts, separated for lean only) and cooked beef chuck steaks (lean only trimmed to 0” fat) and made a conservative statement backed by that. Feel free to compare other cuts.
- Nadine Nelson highly recommended the goat sausage from Locust Knoll Farm in Sterling, Mass. She also reports that Topical Foods in Roxbury carries a soup starter packet ($2.39) for Mannish water. It’s by Spicy Hill Farms and features noodles, onion, garlic, Scotch bonnet pepper, salt, celery, ginger and allspice.
- Although most goat meat is local, I did find frozen goat meat from Australia at Fairway Beef in Worcester while reporting my butcher story for the winter 2010 issue of Edible Boston (long after my Globe story was filed...crikey).
- At Well Foods Plus, I ordered a whole bone-in goat leg, which the butchers cut up for me on a power saw—all the while, incredulously and repeatedly asking me if I really wanted the whole thing. My general shyness, compounded by a bit of a language barrier, made me insist that I did (?!), even though it came out to close to 10 pounds. When they handed me two heavy bags of meat and a slip with a terrifyingly high total, I tried to hide my mistake from Nate by telling him to go wait outside while I interviewed the owner. Of course, as soon as I met him after the interview, he called me out. (“I can’t believe you just spent $50 on $$%%% goat!”) I guess I’m not as slick as I think. Fortunately, we froze half the meat and both loved the stew (try it at home; you will thank me, I promise), so now it’s something to look forward to and not just a costly tax write-off.